Watch Them Die

Watch Them Die

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by Kevin O'Brien

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Different Victims

The blonde film student. The brunette paralegal. The red-headed artist.

Different Methods

The first victim is strangled. The second is stabbed repeatedly. And the third is pushed out of an open window.

Same Madman

In the city of Seattle, no single woman is safe. From afar he watches theSee more details below

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Different Victims

The blonde film student. The brunette paralegal. The red-headed artist.

Different Methods

The first victim is strangled. The second is stabbed repeatedly. And the third is pushed out of an open window.

Same Madman

In the city of Seattle, no single woman is safe. From afar he watches the ones he so desperately wants. Willing to do whatever it takes to prove his love. But should his latest obsession betray him, he will have no choice but to punish her. By finding new and brutal ways to teach her a lesson. And by finally loving her--to death. . .

Praise For The Novels Of Kevin O'Brien

"Imaginative, well written. . .add this book to your summer reading list."
--Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas)

"Another fast-paced and gripping read."
--The Seattle Post Intelligencer

Includes An Excerpt Of Kevin O'Brien's Newest Thriller Final Breath

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fast-forward to Scary as Hell! Read this page turner with the lights on!" —Lisa Jackson

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By Kevin O'Brien

Kensington Publishing Corp.

Copyright © 2003 Kevin O'Brien
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0786014520

Chapter One

Hannah glanced at the videocassette in the plain plastic box. There wasn't much tape on the spools, certainly no more than a half hour's worth of viewing. The mystery video had been sitting in the "Return Tape Limbo" drawer behind the counter at Emerald City Video for over two weeks now. In that bottom drawer they stashed defective tapes and DVDs, lost-and-found items, and cassettes dropped off at the store by mistake.

Hannah Doyle had been working at Emerald City Video for eighteen months. In her opinion, every hour at the place had taken its toll on her appearance. Hannah thought she looked pale and tired most of the time. But the customers who saw the pretty, blond clerk with the trim figure wouldn't have agreed with her. Though she was thirty-two years old with a toddler son at home, Hannah's youthful looks had many people assuming she was fresh out of college. A prominent scar on her chin lent some character to her lovely face. People in the store had asked, but Hannah didn't talk about how she got the scar.

Crouched behind the counter, she stared at the mystery cassette. She was always curious about these "wrong return" videos. Customers often asked if she'd ever found any homemade sex tapes among those mistaken returns. Hannah hadn't. After a couple of weeks, she'd always take them home and review the tapes before throwing them out or recycling them.

If the store employees wanted to see sex tapes, they had over two thousand adult titles to choose from.

Emerald City Video was a neighborhood video store, and the neighborhood was one of Seattle's most eclectic. Street urchins who looked as if they'd wandered in to shoplift might be renting an Audrey Hepburn movie on their parents' account. An old lady might be patiently standing in line with Upstairs, Downstairs clutched in her liver-spotted hands, while the man in front of her checked out four adult videos.

The shop was ideally located across the street from a mini-mall that housed an Old Navy, Starbucks, and a dozen smaller stores. Emerald City Video's storefront was all windows, allowing Hannah and her coworkers a good look at the bustling street scene. People-watching helped pass the time when business was slow. The employees didn't have to wear uniforms either, and for that, Hannah was grateful.

There were stories painting Emerald City Video's back room as a hot spot of furtive gay sexual activity. But Hannah had never noticed any funny business in the small alcove where they kept the adult rifles. The only real trouble she'd encountered in the adult section was a few months back. A nicely dressed, pale man of forty had ducked into the alcove one afternoon, then spent two hours browsing. He finally emerged from the back room and stomped up to the counter, glaring at Hannah. "I was getting sick to my stomach back there, looking at all that filth," he hissed.

Hannah fought the urge to roll her eyes at him. She managed to smile. "Well, all you need to start a membership here is a photo ID, credit card, and a ten-dollar down-payment that applies to your fast three rentals."

He'd stormed out of the store, but returned a week later. Now he was one of their regular customers, renting up to ten adult titles a week. He was also one of Emerald City Video's rudest, most obnoxious customers. There was a note on his account whenever they pulled his name up: This guy's a creep. Argues late fees. Don't take it personally. He's rude to everyone. Be nice.

He was one of the exceptions. Most customers at Emerald City Video were friendly. Hannah knew many of them by name now. She had a window into their lives too. She'd heard it all:

"I need to take my boyfriend off my account. We broke up...."

"I have a friend who's going to be renting for me for the next few weeks. I have to go in for surgery on Wednesday; then I'll be on chemo...."

"Sorry about the late fee. My mom died, and I had to go to back to Nebraska...."

"I believe my husband has an account with you, and I'd like to know if he's been renting any adult videos, specifically gay videos...."

"We never got a chance to watch it. We both fell asleep. The baby has kept us up so late the last couple of nights...."

Hannah became sympathetic ear, nursemaid, confidante, beard, and cheerleader to scores of people. She'd even learned some sign language to communicate with their deal customers. But she still hadn't mastered Korean, Japanese Chinese, or Spanish.

At the moment, only a handful of customers were in the store. Hannah's pick, Strictly Ballroom, played on the three strategically located TVs. Her coworker, Scott, stood at his register, staring down at her. "Hannah, for God's sake, take the damn tape home and look at it. You know you're dying to, which, by the way, is kind of pathetic. You really need a life."

The phone rang, and he answered it. Twenty-six, tall, and thin, Scott Eckland was almost too handsome. He had gelled black hair, deep-set blue eyes, a male model's cheekbones, and a strong jawline. With his video store salary, he dressed in Salvation Army finds that never quite came together. Today he wore a pair of green plaid slacks and yellow shirt that was missing all its buttons. So he'd stapled up the front. The look was a cross between cutting-edge trendsetter and total nerd.

"God help us all," he muttered, hanging up the phone. "If I have to reserve one more of the new-season Sopranos, I'll kill someone." He logged the reservation into his register, then glanced at Hannah again.

Shutting the drawer, she started to slip the tape into her purse, but hesitated.

"So take it home already," Scott groaned. "The stupid video has been here-what-two weeks? You're not violating anyone's privacy. And if there's a cute naked guy on the tape, you're giving it to me."

Hannah dropped the cassette in her purse.

Suddenly, and in steady succession, one person after another began filing into the store, many of them dropping tapes in the return bin. "Oh, crap," Hannah whispered. "It's going to get crazy."

She was right. It got crazy. The phones started ringing, too. About a dozen customers descended on the front counter at the same time. Hannah and Scott were swamped, but they managed to handle the rush without a problem-for a while at least.

Only two people were waiting in line behind the smartly dressed brunette who stepped up to Hannah's register. With her hair pulled back in a tight bun, the thirty-something woman's tanned face had a pinched look. She set her video on the counter. "Finkelston is the account; she mumbled, reaching into her purse.

"Did you say `Hinkleston'?" Hannah asked. "H-I-N-K-L-"

"There's no `H' in Finkelston." She spoke in a loud, patronizing tone. "There's never been an `H' in Finkelston. F-I-N-K-E-L-S-T-O-N."

"Cindy Finkelston?" Hannah said.

Nodding, the brunette woman pulled out a twenty-dollar bill.

Hannah decided she didn't like Cindy Finkelston very much. Now that she pulled up the account, she disliked her even more. She remembered writing the note on her account: REWIND!!! And tell this slob that she returned Office Space with ketchup all over the cassette. Took forever to clean it off-Erase when done-Hannah.

Hannah started to delete the note. "Well, there's a couple of things here," she said gently. "Um, it says `please rewind.' And you returned Office Space to us with ketchup on the tape and the box."

"Okay, whatever" The woman rolled her eyes. "I happen to be in a hurry."

"Yeah, well, sorry to take up your time," Hannah muttered. "You also have a late fee of twelve dollars."

"I can't pay that now," she replied. "I don't have the money."

Hannah stared at the twenty-dollar bill in Cindy Finkelston's hand. "I'm sorry, but we have to settle late charges before we can rent to you."

"You know, I can just walk down the street to Blockbuster," she retorted, her voice growing louder. "I don't have to take this crap. What's the late charge for anyway? It can't be right."

Hannah pulled the date from her account. "Panic Room came back-"

"I returned that the very next day" Cindy Finkelston interrupted.

Hannah saw the line of people behind Cindy getting longer. "Actually, it was rented on August eighth, due back the ninth, and returned on August twelfth. Three days late at four dollars a day, that makes twelve dollars."

"I thought that was a three-day rental."

Hannah stared at her. "Which is it? Did you return it `the very next day,' as you just said, or did you think it was a three-day rental?"

Cindy seemed stumped for a moment; then she became indignant. "What's your name?" she demanded. "I want to talk to your supervisor."

"My name's Hannah. And the manager went home at five. She'll be back in tomorrow when the store opens at ten."

"Well, you just lost me as a customer," Cindy announced-for half the store to hear. "You can close my account."

Hannah shrugged. "I'm sorry. I can't close your account until your late charges are paid off"

One of the store regulars was in line behind Cindy. "Lady, just pay the stupid fee and stop giving her a hard time!"

"It's none of your goddamn business," Cindy growled, shooting him a look. She turned her glare at Hannah. "I don't have to take this shit from some nobody clerk." She shoved the cassette across the counter, and it fell on the floor by Hannah's feet. "I'll be talking with your superior. If I want to close my account here, I certainly can. Do you want a lawsuit? I'm a paralegal for a very prestigious firm. I'll take legal action."

Cindy flounced toward the door.

"See you in People's Court!" Scott called.

"I can help the next potential witness," Hannah announced. She still had Cindy's account on the computer screen, and quickly typed in a note: Accept no substitutes or imitations. This woman is a genuine asshole.

She hated letting people like Cindy Finkelston bother her. She could go for days with one nice customer after another; then someone like Cindy Finkelston could bring her down in a minute. The truth be told, she was indeed "some nobody clerk," stuck in a go-nowhere job and barely making ends meet for herself and her four-year-old son. Free video rentals were poor compensation for the time she had to spend away from her little boy.

Hannah had to remind herself that, despite everything, she and her son were far better off than they'd been two years ago. They were safe now. No one knew where they were. All things considered, she was lucky to have this go-nowhere job and her little two-bedroom apartment. Maybe she didn't get to spend much time with her son, but at least they were together. These were precious days. She was indeed lucky.

The past hadn't caught up with her yet.

Her name was Cindy Finkelston. Anyone who had been in Emerald City Video forty-five minutes before certainly knew that. She'd even spelled out the name for all to hear, loudly enunciating each letter. Her grand exit had been quite an attention-getter as well

She probably had no idea that someone was videotaping her.

It was no stroke of fate that he'd had his camera with him. He always carried it around. Today his video camera was concealed in a shoulder-strap carryall that looked like a laptop computer bag. He often filmed people on the sly that way. It just so happened he'd been keeping surveillance of the video store when Hannah Doyle had her run-in with Ms. Finkelston. He hadn't expected to find someone like Cindy today. It was almost as if Cindy had chosen him rather than the other way around.

Now he was following her, videotaping her every move. After leaving Emerald City Video, Cindy walked two blocks to the Thriftway. On tape, he caught her slipping an expensive bottle of shampoo into her coat pocket.

Her BMW was parked in a three-minute loading and unloading zone in front of an apartment building. She'd been in that space for at least an hour now. It had grown dark, and the streetlights were on.

Obviously, Cindy Finkelston lived her life getting away with as much as she could, not caring about anyone else. If she ever became the victim of some freak accident, no one would really miss her.

He was on foot, and thought he'd lose her once she drove off. But three stop signs-end one particularly irate pedestrian whom Cindy almost mowed down at a crosswalk-helped him keep a tail on her for six blocks. Still, he was winded by the time he filmed her pulling into a gated lot beside the sterile, slate-colored, five-story apartment building. He wondered about the picture quality for this impromptu night shoot, but decided to take his chances and keep filming.

Cindy climbed out of her BMW, took the stolen shampoo from her pocket, and transferred it to the bag of groceries. Once she stepped inside the lobby, he zoomed in with the camera, catching her in close-up through the glass doors as she rang for the elevator.

The camera panned and scanned across the ugly building for a couple of minutes. Then a light went on in one of the fifth-floor windows. He zoomed in again, and taped Cindy as she came to the window and opened it a crack. She stepped away, out of camera range.

He turned off the video camera. He'd taped enough of Cindy Finkelston-for now. She wasn't really that important. He didn't want to waste any more time with a supporting player.

His new leading lady required some looking after.

Chapter Two

Hannah had walked this way home from work hundreds of nights. It was only six blocks from the store to the front door of her building. The route she took was well traveled and well fit. Not a bad night for a walk, either. Trees swayed and leaves rustled in the chilly October breeze. The stars were out, too.

Approaching a narrow alleyway between two apartment buildings, Hannah suddenly stopped in her tracks. A passing car's headlights swept across the dark alcove, briefly illuminating a man who stood by the dumpsters. He wore a bulky jacket and a hunter's hat.

A chill ran through Hannah. Her heart seemed to stop for a moment. Picking up her pace, she hurried past the alley and glanced at him out of the corner of her eye.

He stood in the shadows. Hannah thought he was drinking something from a bottle. But then she realized that he was holding a video camera.

Just a minute ago, she'd been thinking about her tired feet, and getting home in time to tuck in her son before he fell asleep. Shell been thinking about a shower and the leftover pasta for dinner. But now, none of that mattered. She just needed to get away from this strange man in the hunting cap who was videotaping her.

Hannah started to run. Her apartment building was another three blocks away. She glanced over her shoulder.

Excerpted from WATCH THEM DIE by Kevin O'Brien Copyright © 2003 by Kevin O'Brien
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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